When Throwing Care To The Wind Is Foolish: The 10 Commandments For Driving In Bad Weather

Written by dr. j. Posted in Rants, Safety

cell phone car accident
Just the other day, I was talking with one of my patients about the pervasive LACK of common sense we see in the world today. After giving example after example, he summed it up with one phrase. He said,

“You Can’t Cure Stupid!"

That was profound. And he’s so right. Being stupid can get you in so much trouble…including getting you dead. Yesterday was a prime example of that.

I’m currently on assignment in Michigan. One thing about Michigan is that once winter hits, all bets are off regarding travel. The weather of about half of the state (the western half) is directly influenced by Lake Michigan. That lake effect can make winter driving potentially very hazardous.

This week’s weather has been particularly trying. We’ve had heavy rains, sleet, freezing rain and a blizzard all by Wednesday. It dumped 12 inches of snow in less than six hours…with no let up in sight. So, I decided to leave work 2 hours early to get ahead of rush hour and drive this while there was ample daylight.

My original contingency plan was to get a room at a motel if the weather turned really bad. But I chose to make the trip home instead. I should have stuck to the plan. The trip home, which usually takes 90 minutes, took nearly 4 hours. And it was much more dangerous than originally anticipated…

Not that I anticipated THAT much danger leaving so far ahead of rush hour.

However, I had not driven THAT band of Lake Michigan influence…and it got bad. Very bad. So, this article is as much for me, as for you…to remind us of the 10 commandments of driving in bad weather, winter or not. So, let’s get started…

1) Semis are bullies; don’t play with them .
18 Wheel Bad Asses – All that power and steel gives them full command of the playground…and that playground is the road.  They barrel through like a bull in a China shop, pushing all sorts of crud on your car and windshield, sometimes scaring you half to death as they try to blow you off the road. Road hog! They ACT like they’re so darn indestructible.  Can’t they SEE what you can? That the road just isn’t clear enough or safe enough to go that fast?

The bottom line is they KNOW they’ll do you more harm, than the opposite. So, they push you around. They KNOW they’re bullies. So let ‘em play by themselves.

"Thou shalt get out of the way of semis…always."

The accelerator isn’t your friend; get off the gas.
Slow down. S L O W Down. Slow the heck down. Once you’re spinnin’, tumblin’ or in a ditch, you’ll remember what I said. Slow down. This ain’t the Autobahn.  Nuf said

3) Riding your breaks will get you rear-ended…or a butt whoopin’. 
Now this opens people up for some whoop ass…constantly riding your breaks. These people pass you, get into your lane and light up their breaks so frequently, that you FEEL like running into them just so they can say something to ya…so you have cause to inflict some serious bodily harm.


I think cops SHOULD give out free whoop ass cards for people like these.  So, when they come to arrest you, all you have to do is present them with the card, letting them know that the ass whoopin’ was justified because they were a break riding jerk.

So…if you’re guilty of this…Ease up. Get to know what L1 and L2 do for your driving. Under drive for the condition versus overdriving. Get off the gas especially going into turns, on/off ramps and on cloverleafs. Be kind to whomever is behind you. You don’t want to incite road rage, do ya?

4) When you can’t see them, they can’t see you.
Now this one is a biggie. When visibility is poor, the chances of you hitting something goes way up…be it a deer, a stranded motorist, a piece of debris, a person crossing the road or the car in front of you. So…

Turn On Your Damn Lights!

It’s so inconsiderate to everyone driving if you don’t. Don’t trust your automated light sensors. MANUALLY turn them on.

If you’ve ever come up on a car or a person that you just didn’t see until you were right up on them, you know what I’m saying. A little light would have been a warning. Keep a pair of BLUE glasses in your car…as in blue lenses. It’ll help you see shapes in white out or dense fog conditions…and give you an added safety edge.

By the way, if you can’t see squat, you shouldn’t be going the speed limit.

5) Pressure is not your friend.
When someone is riding your tail, please, do NOT ride your breaks. Encourage them to pass you by SLOWING DOWN to a speed that will easily allow them to go around you. Don’t annoy them by riding your breaks – that could end up an accident if they fail to react in time. If the pressure from traffic is too much, get off the road. Find an alternative route or bunker down in a motel.

6) Stupid people rule!
Stupid people rule. Expect stupid people to come out when the weather is bad. The worse, the better. They just can’t help themselves. They particularly LIKE to get out when it’s bad just to piss you off. You’ve seen them…the vans and 4 wheelers blasting past you…going to the grocery store when everyone else is struggling to get home…ALIVE.

What the HELL are you doing out in this? Stupid people rule…stupid people rule. Sing it with me…”Stupid people rule.” If you don’t HAVE to go out (milk and bread are not a good enough reason), DON’T.

7) There is no traction on ICE.
I see this commandment broken all the time, more in Michigan than in Colorado though. Look,  I don’t care if you have a 4 wheel drive, Quattro drive or run flat tires…you can expect to slip slide on ice. Even my friend near Edmonton (Alberta) states their studded snows STILL have much difficulty on ice. Accept this law of nature as the gospel.

8 ) When you can’t see the guy that just passed you in broad daylight, it’s time to get off the big roads.
Yes, during MOST bad weather, you’re encouraged to use the main roads. But the interstate may NOT be one of those…especially if it is smack dab in the middle of the hell belt. Make sure you KNOW the road and have several alternate routes already prepared in advance. If one of your routes is blocked, having another one (or two) will serve you well.

Also, just because the major route may be impassable, doesn’t mean the back routes are. If they are maintained by smaller towns or cities, those towns may have been much more aggressive at clearing the snow or ice. Don’t count these out. This was the case just a few days ago. Once I got off the big roads, the rest of the trip was fairly stress and pressure free.

9) Lane changes on bridges or curves – just say no! Don’t do ‘em.
If you’ve paid attention to the cars and trucks in the ditches, many of those ended up there by taking an icy curve too fast or skating across a bridge while lane changing. If you’ve ever had that feeling once, of having no control over the moving projectile you’re in, well, it’s enough to break you of ever starting that habit. You have no control over a car that is essentially hydroplaning on ice! This one thing has caused several multicar pileups in Michigan, including the 2002 76 car pile up near Benton Harbor…and a 30-40 car pile up just east of Okemos.

10) You can’t text message and drive…at least not safely.
Nor can you safely operate a cell phone or watch a DVD while driving in bad weather…NOR carry on a conversation where you are tempted to LOOK at the person you’re talking to. Bad weather DEMANDS your FULL attention. Keep your eyes on the road and remain very, very alert.

By the way, the picture at the top of the page is of someone who was
text messaging while driving
…and lost. I’ll let you guess who was
doing the text messaging and who walked away…

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